Whitsundays, Magnetic Island & Cairns

The last month has been a whirlwind on the road! We left Noosa (engaged!!) after a month of working and headed north to Airlie Beach. Seeing the Whitsundays was one of the biggest items on my Australia bucket list and it did not disapoint!

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We stayed in Airlie Beach, a colourful small town, and set sail from the harbour there.

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We spent three days and two nights on a sailboat touring the islands off of the coast. Screen Shot 2016-12-20 at 11.59.24 AM.png

It was my first time sailing. I was so thankful for calm seas so I did not have to find out if I get sea sick or not! The islands are rocky except for the inlet with the famous Whitehaven Beach. The sand is silica and feels like fine flour. Talk about heaven on earth!

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I don’t know if anything in the world could be more beautiful than this. After taking in the views, we walked down to the beach and swam in crystal clear water with stingrays and small lemon sharks.

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The Whitsunday’s are in the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef, so we also got some great snorkelling in from the sailboat. We saw three sea turtles!

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Three days on a boat with 30 people was a bit crammed so it was nice to be off of the boat and in the water! As beautiful as the surroundings were, it was packed below deck. I’m surprised that many people are allowed on a boat that size.

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Do not recommend if you are even the tiniest bit claustrophobic!

Next stop…

Magnetic Island!

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The view right out the front door of our hostel. They strongly advised against swimming as a 5m crocodile had been spotted a couple days before! Plus it is stinger season, so it is recommended to wear a stinger suit if in the water. To summarize: everything in Australia wants to kill you.

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Burnt our feet to get up here but pretty cool views!

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We spent the day on Magnetic Island touring in rented Jeeps checking out the beaches and bays. It was absolutely beautiful! I have more photos but they will not upload with this spotty wifi so those will have to do. After our Magnetic Island stay, it was back on the ferry to Townsville to catch the train to our last stop on our east coast tour, Cairns!

Cairns was a smaller city, with no beach but instead a lagoon downtown, similar to Airlie Beach. Every day at dusk thousands of bats emerge from down town trees. When I say bats, think small pterodactyl because these bats are beastly huge. The downtown was very small, but there were some Night Markets open daily with interesting aboriginal art to check out. The best part of Cairns was exploring the Atherton Tablelands, and spending a day out on the reef.

The tablelands are home to many famous waterfalls and breathtaking jungle views. Our first stop was Josephine Falls, where the cascades make natural waterslides! It was a blast swimming in the crystal clear mountain water.Screen Shot 2016-12-27 at 1.27.54 PM.png

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The landscape was so interesting on the walk in. It felt like Jurassic Park.

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We also explored Milla Milla waterfall, famous for being used in a Herbal Essence commercial. It is mandatory to do the hair flip!Screen Shot 2016-12-27 at 12.28.36 PM.png

After a great day exploring the tablelands, we had time for one last day on the reef before leaving Cairns. We were an hour and a half out, and there were lots of other snorkelers and scuba divers at this location. Screen Shot 2016-12-16 at 9.02.36 PM.png

My goggles weren’t the greatest!

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There was a ton of fish, every colour you can imagine. Of course the GoPro died before we could get some close up video!

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That ended our time in Cairns, and our adventures up the east coast of Australia! I checked everything off of my bucket list so I had to make it longer which is fine by me! We have hung out with kangaroos, fed wallabies, watched salt water crocs leap for food, tried not to panic over a venomous brown snake, swam with sting rays and lemon sharks, visited koala hospitals, and kayaked with too many dolphins and whales to count. We’ve hiked and swam and snorkelled and surfed and made the most of every day away so far. This is definitely the adventure of a lifetime!!

Now we are exploring South East Asia for a month before heading to South Australia, and then New Zealand.

Hope everyone back home had a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year!

PS- a few extra pics I’ve taken along the way.

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Brisbane, Fraser Island & Noosa!!

Week 5 of the great Aussie Adventure already! Time flies when you are in a new place every couple days. In the last two weeks we spend two nights in Brisbane, three days on Fraser Island, and the rest of the time in Noosa.

Brisbane

Our time in Brisbane was brief, so I did not get to take many pictures! The downtown was gorgeous and there are rivers through out the city, making it feel very open. We found a great rainforest boardwalk to explore and checked out the science museum (free entry!!).  A lot of people stop in Brisbane to work, and while I would be happy to live there if I had a great job, I wouldn’t make it my first choice. The beach is too far to walk and a city is a city 🙂

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Fraser Island

Fraser Island, or K’gari, is the largest sand island in the world. It has crystal clear lakes and streams of water so well purified you can fill your water bottle in them. The aboriginals of K’gari (the Butchulla people) believe that K’gari was the princess daughter of their god, and that she loved earth so much she stayed. I see the logic- I have never been somewhere that felt more like heaven on earth!

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The beach doubles as the highway, and the airplane runway! Pretty cool experience to be driving along the ocean for miles. Took some getting used to shifting gears with my left hand! Better to practice here than on busy roads 🙂

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This ship was considered the sister ship to the titanic in its day for both speed and luxury. It ended up on the shores of Fraser in the 30’s when a tow line broke and here it stayed. It was in perfect condition until it was used for bombing practice by military forces!

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Lake Boorangoora! This lake has a high pH, so nothing grows in it. It is absolutely crystal clear! It was a dream to spend a day swimming here. It is actually so clear you can see my reflection at the top of the picture from under water. The aboriginals considered these waters to be waters of wisdom.

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Floating down Eli Creek. This creek was one you could drink from. The water comes from an aquifer under the pacific ocean that springs in two locations: Fraser Island and Fiji. This is the same water that you drink when buying Fiji water! Ps. Somehow looks murky in this pic but was totally clear to a sand bottom.

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Hiking to the Champagne Pools. You can’t swim in the ocean around Fraser as it is patrolled by tiger sharks. But at low tide, these rock pools fill and are safe to swim in!

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The fateful hike where I impaled my poor foot on a stick. Don’t worry mom I bought polysporin and yes, I promise to wear shoes next time.

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Hiking to Lake Wabby. It is completely green from the tea tree bushes growing along the shoreline. It is supposedly great for your skin! Under normal circumstances I would be hesitant to jump in such green water but after a hot 40 minute hike, I dove in without a second thought. There are so many unique places on Fraser Island.

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800 year old tree! This island was full of huge trees until the early 1900’s when it was logged by the British. Due to stereotypes perpetuated by a famous novel, The Fatal Shore, where Eliza Fraser exaggerates her interactions with the natives on the island after being shipwrecked, the loggers came heavily armed ready to take on a savage and and cannibal community of aboriginals. Though this was not at all the case, the 3,000 natives on the island were almost completely killed. The Butchulla people had a peaceful culture entered around three core values: what is good for the land comes first, do not take or touch what does not belong to you, and if you have plenty, you must share. If only the invading loggers and explorers came from a society with such morals. Devastating history for such a beautiful place.

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On that note, 250 Butchulla men, women and children were pushed off of this cliff to the rocks below by loggers. Very dark but I feel like it would be disrespectful to share pictures without acknowledging what the traditional owners of this land went through.

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A wild dingo! We were repeatedly warned about how aggressive dingos can be. They are actually so cute but apparently they will take anything and actually stole a baby before. Australia is no joke people. A group of us were at the beach at night and I saw something in the dark in my peripheral vision. Thankfully I had a flashlight, as it was a dingo circling us! It was probably just curious but it was definitely not afraid of us, so it was a bit intimidating.

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Just for fun, here is a picture of a regular old moth. Every bug we see seems to be super-sized.

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Another incredible look out on K’gari. We were so lucky to have a great guide, Paul, who really cared to take the time to educate us on the history of the island. Being disconnected from the mainland, with no cell service and no roads, was a perfect escape!

Noosa

Noosa was where I dreamed of planning this trip in April. I wanted to live on the beach here and get a job, and as of today I am officially employed here! It is a perfect temporary position that more than covers living expenses with just 15 hours of work a week, so my funds won’t deplete and I still have time to enjoy this incredible area! Dream come true!

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The main beach in Noosa at sunset. I haven’t had a chance to do the famous coastal hike or paddle board in the rivers yet, so that will be in my next update. Noosa is home for the next three weeks, as we check more items off of the bucket list.

Next up in Noosa: Eumundi Markets, Coastal Hike, Explore the Everglades, Faerie Pools, Secret Beach, Sunshine Beach, Mount Coolum, Glasshouse Mountains, and a day trip to the Australia Zoo!

Until then, you can find us here:

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Barrington, Byron Bay & Surfers Paradise

Officially three weeks into my Australia adventure! We have tickets for an on-and-off bus travelling from Sydney to Cairns. We decided to stay in Surfer’s Paradise for an extra week so I have some time to update (and do laundry thankfully!)

Our last days around Sydney were spent in the Blue Mountains. We hiked the famous three sisters and Katoomba cascades. The scenery was incredible! Plus walking is free and everything was a lot cheaper out of the city so it is a great weekend trip for anyone hanging out around Sydney.

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A week from Friday we took off to travel up the east coast in search of sunshine and beaches, and we definitely were not disappointed!

Barrington

Our first stop was a couple hours inland from the coast. We stayed in a very hilly area far from any kind of city. It was nice to be out in the country but the country comes with critters 😭 We stayed in a home converted to a hostel, and while playing darts a furry huntsman spider the size of my hand crawled out from behind the dart board. Disgusting! Not poisonous but apparently their self defence is to jump on you if you get too close so believe me, I kept my distance.

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View from the Twistops Backpackers Hostel. Worth the spider scare. We spent our day here tubing down a crystal clear river. I was paranoid about snakes but apparently I was not supposed to worry if I saw any pythons sunbathing on shore. I would have done a lot more than just worrying if I saw one. But it was great fun, no snake sightings, though of course I fell out and was helplessly flung around at every rapid while Brennan smoothly stayed on his tube the entire time.

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Spot X

Our second night was in Arrawarra at Spot X Surf Camp. We only had one night, so no surfing, but we enjoyed the beach and spent the night hanging out around a campfire. We stayed in teepees that night, but they had real beds and electricity so it was the kind of camping I can handle💁🏽

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This was just on the other side of the teepees. It would have been awesome to fall asleep to the sound of the ocean but a music festival was on with the stage literally on the other side of that bus so the evening sounds were not exactly soothing.

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While Brennan and I were on this beach swimming, we noticed a massive whale fin that seemed to be rotating. Brennan joked that it looked like a whale on a rotisserie..turns out four great white sharks were attacking a humpback whale so he wasn’t wrong. It is unusual for sharks to go for whales but apparently there is a much higher number of sharks coming in the coast this year. Pretty crazy to have been in the water watching that, knowing sharks were so close.

The next night we really did camp, kayaking for an hour down the Corindi river to our campsite.

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A brown snake slithered past us as we walked from the river to the campsite. It was only a baby but they are very venomous. It was far enough away that I didn’t panic but it was a good reminder that they are around out there. We stayed in swags, which are individual tents on the ground with mesh over your face for watching the stars. Incredible!

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Byron Bay

Our next stop was Byron Bay! This was somewhere on my Australia bucket list as it is super famous for surfing and whale watching. It is the most eastern point of Australia so migrating sea life passes close to shore. The bay is full of dolphins and whales. We went sea kayaking and had a small pod of dolphins surrounding us, including a mother and a calf. It was so peaceful to be out on the ocean and I was in awe of the wildlife. This was definitely an experience I will remember forever.

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Byron is a total hippie town. I loved all of the amazing healthy food options, but it was so pricey. Definitely somewhere I would go back to, for the amazing beach, great hikes, and perfect downtown with cute shops and restaurants. Here is me downtown Byron enjoying a $13.00 smoothie. Still have not adjusted to these prices😣

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Gold Coast/Surfers Paradise

After two days in Byron we continued an hour north to Gold Coast. We are staying in Surfers Paradise and it is a dream come true to be here. The entire city is right along the beach, which is 15km of white sand. We started with a surfing lesson- finally! We have been surrounded by surf culture for weeks and despite the whole shark thing we were both really excited to get in the water.

Brennan trying to steal my wave (or vice versa).

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I love the feeling of surfing even on these baby waves. But don’t let these pictures deceive you- I absolutely ate it and got pummelled by a lot of big waves before I actually stood up😂

Skyline of Surfer’s Paradise from Coolangatta.

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Some great ocean views near Surfers. Saw another humpback whale breaching here. It is such an incredible sight.DSC00235.jpg

We have spent the last couple days hanging out around Surfer’s downtown and on the beach. It is a huge race weekend here, and Brennan was drooling over the sounds of the cars. We went to check out tickets, not wanting to pay more than 50$ to get in, and the tickets were 100$ each. But as we were debating, a man came up and handed us a ticket for free as he had to leave and didn’t want it wasted, so we got to check out the race after all 👍🏽DSC00292.jpg

The face of a happy man 😂 Like a kid at a candy shop.

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So we have two days left here, and are expecting gorgeous weather so I am sure we will spend most of them by the beach! We got to attend another Hillsong in this city and felt so welcome. We were given a free CD as we had come all the way from Canada, and got to have some really interesting conversations with a few kind couples after the service. You always learn a lot talking to the locals!

This Wednesday we leave Surfers for two days in Brisbane, and then we continue on to Fraser Island and then Noosa. It is so exciting to check all of these items off of a bucket list I made in April sitting in my kitchen in Renfrew!

On to the next adventure.

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Sydney, Port Stephens, Katoomba

Finally in the land of Oz! After 27 hours of travel we arrived in Sydney at 8 am on Saturday, October 1. Since then we have had a whirlwind of activity getting oriented and touring with Ultimate Oz.

We checked in to Wake Up, a clean hostel centrally located in Sydney. Thankfully we had slept on the plane so we had the energy to walk about and tour some iconic Sydney sights.
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30 minute walk from our hostel to the Harbour.

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Royal Gardens! Beautiful trails in the middle of the city.

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Hillsong! ⛪️ The original Hillsong. Incredible speaker and of course incredible worship. They have a courtesy shuttle bus and a great welcoming committee that saved us seats and gave us free coffee. I have always wanted to go here.

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Harbour cruise! Cooler day (18 degrees) but beautiful sunshine and perfectly clear water for swimming. It was fun to get to know the other travellers and we enjoyed a BBQ on board.

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Hiking in Nelson Bay. Steep climb but beyond worth it for these incredible views.

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Off to Port Stephens. We stayed at Melaleuca Surfside hostel, referred to as basecamp by Ultimate Oz. The accommodations are called “eco cabins” and you really are surrounded by nature. Not for people who can’t handle spiders. We didn’t see any snakes thankfully but when you walked by bushes you could hear all the critters moving away from you.

The owners at Melaleuca rehabilitate injured wild animals, and this kangaroo named Josie has never left. She is not fenced in she just chooses to hang out! She liked Brennan the best out of everyone, I respect her taste in men.
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The Cabins.
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Possums appear everywhere at night and they are not afraid! They look so cute but if you try to touch them they are like wild cats. The hide in the roof in the daytime and Brennan turned around in his shower once to a possum tail hanging down!

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Sandboarding in nearby dunes. The landscape changed so quickly! The dunes are beside a beach that is a Great White nursery, but there has never in 100 years been a shark attack. This is most likely because it is aboriginal land and commercial fishing is banned, making regular prey plentiful for the sharks. None the less we chose to stay on shore 😋

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Finished off with a dolphin watching cruise around the bay, and saw tons of dolphins! They swam right under the boat. These beauties should never be in captivity 😬

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Sunrise at One Mile Beach, just a five minute walk from our cabins😍

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This ended our week in Sydney, and we were off to the Blue Mountains, a two hour train ride from Sydney! Here we are staying in a somewhat eerie old hostel with wild wind that rattles the windows. But the beds seem clean and they have free laundry, free wifi and a scrabble board, so no complaints here!

We started off our first day in Katoomba with an abseiling adventure with the Blue Mountain Adventure Co! It was something we both wanted to try and as it is still off season it was just Brennan and I, so we both got to rappel many times over a 30m cliff edge. It was nerve wracking getting over the edge initially, but the insane views were worth it. We were rappelling 30m to a ledge, but all the way to the forest floor was actually a 200m drop so we really were quite high. Loved it! Sidetone: It was 3 degrees this morning when we went looking for coffee. THREE. Is this a joke? This is not what I packed for!! Beach, please.

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Up next: One more day of hiking in Katoomba, then back to Sydney for a night (hopefully fitting in a LJ workout class) then on the bus to head north with Loka Travel! Time for some warmer weather. Adventure awaits!

Australia Bucket List- Open to Suggestions!

In just three short months I am heading to Australia, and I have so many things to see and do! I have been talking to everyone I can (friends and friends of friends) who have explored Australia and gathered their tips, along with places I have found through research, to make a list of things I want to do when in Aus!!

  1. Sydney Harbour Tour
  2. Bondi Beach
  3. Try sand boarding
  4. Hike Blue Mountains
  5. Koala/Kangaroo Sanctuary
  6. Take surfing lessons
  7. Tour to Uluru
  8. Camel ride tour
  9. Surfer’s Paradise
  10. Gold Coast
  11. Sunshine Coast
  12. Byron Bay
  13. Coastal Hike
  14. Brisbane Harbour
  15. Work out in HITT Australia Brisbane
  16. Noosa Heads- hiking, beach, river activities
  17. Sail the Whitsunday Islands
  18. Helicopter tour
  19. Sail to Great Barrier Reef
  20. Hang out on Arlie Beach
  21. Go to Hillsong!

BONUS:

  1. New Zealand- esp. South Island
  2. Fiji or Cook Islands during connecting flights
  3. Indonesia from Darwin (90$ flights to Denpasar)

 

WHAT AM I MISSING? I want all of the suggestions in the world, I have up to twelve months depending on how things go so I don’t want to miss anything! From beaches and hikes to hostels and restaurants, every suggestion helps.

 

Thank you xx

Tips for Enjoying a Long Distance Road Trip

There is nothing quite as fun as the feeling of freedom when you hit the road for a spontaneous road trip. Some of the best memories can be made on the road, where the endless lanes lead to meaningful conversations and in turn, solidified relationships. But forced bonding time doesn’t always work out so smoothly. Take it from someone who has about 21 different 15 plus hour road trips under her belt: road trips can make or break any relationship. Here are some tips, tried and true, to keep real-life road trips as idyllic and fun as they are in the movies.

 

Pack good snacks

 

As a sufferer of severe hanger issues, I can promise things get tense when passengers get hungry. Take some time before you leave to prepare some good snacks and light meals so you are never left hungry, especially when covering long distances without many stops! Freeze water bottles the night before to use as ice in the cooler, so your food stays fresh and your water stays cold.

 

Split up the Driving

 

Map out your trip and plan on who will drive each leg of the journey. It’s less daunting when you go piece by piece, and time goes faster with shorter distance goals. I like segmenting the trip into 200 kilometre stretches. It takes about 2 hours, which isn’t too long for the driver and ensures regular bathroom breaks and fuel ups throughout the day. Some people prefer to stop as little as possible, but I find that frequent, shorter stops (think five to ten minutes) make the day more enjoyable. Evenly splitting the driving doesn’t add much time to the journey and keeps everyone comfortable.

 

Plan your stops

 

Spontaneity is great, well-planned spontaneity is better. Heading out with no finalized plan is okay, and sometimes more fun, but you need some degree of planning in advance. You need to know where gas stations become scarce on your route so you can make sure you have a full tank. I once was travelling through mountains in a diesel truck and we went four hours without filling up because we didn’t know the only station serving diesel had been shut down. Stressors like low fuel add tension to the small space and kill the vibe.

 

Bring boredom busters

 

It will take more than good conversation to stay amused for days in a vehicle. If you get carsick reading, bring games designed for the car like puzzles, or come armed with riddles that get everybody thinking. I personally like to pull some beautiful puns and atrocious dad jokes out of my large repertoire, but I am pretty sure I’m the only one amused by them. Sorry not sorry co-pilots.

 

Have the perfect playlist

 

The key ingredient for the perfect road trip is a playlist that keeps you energized and excited. Take a few minutes to put together the songs that have been on replay in your head. If you don’t play “Life is a Highway” by Rascal Flatts, was it really even a road trip? You will be singing along and jamming with your passengers as the miles roll bye. If your playlist runs out, put your shotgun rider on radio duty and find the cool local stations as you pass through town after town.

 

 

A road trip can be a blast or be a bore. When we are talking over fifteen hours in a confined space, no matter how good the company, things can get uncomfortable. But when you come prepared and armed with snacks, tunes, and games, you will make great memories and enjoy the ride. Embrace the detours, don’t worry about the potholes, and make the journey the best part of your vacation.

How to choose a destination when EVERYWHERE is on your list

If you are anything like me, the longest piece of writing you have done in your life is a comprehensive travel list of every location and event you are determined to experience in your lifetime. So, when the opportunity to travel presents itself, it can be pretty difficult to narrow down which place to cross off the good old bucket list. This is the thought process I followed to come to the decision to head to Australia this fall.

1) What do I want to LEARN?

A traveller is someone who makes a lifestyle out of learning. Be it languages, sports, traditions, or cooking, every trip teaches many lessons. While there is really nothing I don’t want to learn, I am biased towards anything health and wellness. So, I channelled my search to locations known for locals with active lifestyles where I learn how a different culture eats well and stays fit.

2) What do I want to SEE?

People travel to see wonders of every kind, from architecture and ancient ruins to high fashion and fine cuisine. I love nature and I want to see mountains,beaches, jungles and oceans. I am biased towards all places tropical as it is winter for basically 8 months of the year where I live.

3) What do I want to TRY?

Have you always dreamt of hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu or taking a cooking course in southern Italy? For me, learning to surf has always been a goal. I have had one lesson off the coast of Canada in March- two girls in the group got hypothermia and when the water hit my face it was so cold it took my breath away. Let’s just say it was not exactly what I had in mind. I want the cliche tropical surfer girl experience.

Once you have identified what you want to gain from your travel experience, it should be much easier to come to a destination decision! The final deciding factors for me were based on what was possible. I had to go somewhere where I could get a working visa to support myself as I travel. I decided on Australia because it checks off all of my requirements: work in a tropical location where I could try surfing, learn about health and wellness, and see incredible beaches.

Hope this was helpful for anyone making the difficult destination decision!

xx